Two people were killed Thursday when a small plane flying from Palm Springs crashed into a soggy field in northwest Santa Rosa.
The accident happened at about 7 p.m. near the end of Wood Ranch Road, less than two miles south of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.
A man and a woman, the only occupants of the single-engine plane, were believed to have been killed on impact, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said.
Their identities were not immediately known. A flight plan indicated they were bound for Santa Rosa, Crum said.
“It’s mangled,” Crum said of the plane, which appeared to be pointing in a southwest direction.
The cause of the crash, which happened amid scattered showers, was under investigation.
“We don’t know if it ran out of fuel or hit the treetops,” said Santa Rosa fire Capt. Greg McCollum.
It also was unknown if the pilot broadcast a distress signal.
The wreckage came to rest in the middle of a grass-covered field, about 100 yards from the nearest house. It did not hit any structures on the way down and there was no fire, he said.
A large impact crater was evidence it hit at a high rate of speed, McCollum said.
Its white tail with red and gray markings was visible from across the field. Firefighters draped yellow tarps over the bodies, which were outside the aircraft.
A team from the National Transportation Safety Board was expected to begin an investigation Friday at first light, Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Duke said.
He said deputies would secure the area.
As emergency workers cordoned off the scene, neighbors gathered to see what happened. Many described hearing a loud noise before running outside.
Michael Mancuso, who lives nearby, said he was taking care of his cows when he heard the plane come down.
“It sounded like a freight train,” Mancuso said.
Sharon Morris, whose home is closest to the crash site, said she heard a “whoosh” when the plane hit the ground. Her 19-year-old son, Jeff, called 911 before running outside to check for survivors. He jumped over his fence and saw “a big, crushed plane.”
He thought the male victim had a brief pulse but wasn’t sure. Later, he said he felt fortunate the plane didn’t hit his house.
“We were pretty lucky,” he said. “God was looking out for us.”
His father, Rincon Valley Fire Capt. Chuck Morris, was on duty when dispatchers called for assistance. He heard the location and was worried as he rushed to the scene, he said.
“It’s a little unnerving to hear your own address called by the dispatchers,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ppayne.